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E03130: Gregory of Tours, in his Miracles of Martin (2.25), recounts how, during the night before Christmas, a demon tried to deceive the people of Tours into believing they had been abandoned by *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050). That same night, during mass in Martin's basilica, Bonulf, a paralysed man, already partially healed at a feast of Martin, was fully cured, thereby demonstrating the presence of the saint; AD 575. Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/581.

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posted on 2017-06-27, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Gregory of Tours, Miracles of Martin (Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi) 2.25

After the vigils kept during the night before Christmas, Gregory and others walked from the cathedral to the church of Martin in Tours. On their way there a possessed man caused alarm by claiming that Martin had abandoned Tours because of the misdeeds of its people, and now effected his miracles in Rome.

Ingredientibus autem nobis cum fletu magno basilicam, omnes pavimento prosternimur, orantes, ut sancti viri praesentiam mereamur. Et ecce unus Bonulfus nomine, cui ante tres annos per nimiam valitudinis febrem manus ambae cum uno pede contraxerant, et ad festivitatem beati viri manibus directis, pede adhuc debile claudicabat, ante altare sanctum sternitur, orans, ut, qui sibi manus aridas restituerat, pedem quoque contractum simili virtute diregeret. In hac autem oratione a febre nimia circumdatur et tamquam extensus in aeculeum nervorum dolore torquetur. Interea de supplice dolor excitet contumacem, et, qui venerat inquerere medicinam, coepit inferre calumniam. Aiebat enim: 'O domne Martine, sanitatem ad te, non tormenta quaesivi. Quam si non mereor, vel doloribus non adfligar'. Cumque nos cum fletibus circumstantes beati praestolaremur adventum, et inter haec sancta solemnia agerentur, oblatis super altere sacris muneribus, misteriumque corporis ac sanguinis Christi palla ex more coopertum, molliuntur contracturae nervorum, et disrupto post infirmi poplitae corio, diffluente sanguinis rivo, pedem extendit incolomem.

'Then we entered the church with much weeping, prostrated ourselves on the floor, and prayed that we might be worthy of the holy man’s presence. And behold, there was a man named Bonulf, whose two hands as well as one foot had been crippled three years previously because of the high fever from an illness; although his hands had been restored during a festival of the blessed man, he limped because his foot was still lame. He now knelt before the holy altar and prayed that he who had restored his withered hands might also straighten his crippled foot with a similar display of his power. During his prayer Bonulf was surrounded with an intense heat and, as if stabbed with a sharp point, tormented with pain in his tendons. Then the pain made the suppliant defiant, and the man who had come to request medicine began to defame [the saint]. For Bonulf said: 'O lord Martin, I sought my health from you, not torments. If I do not deserve my health, let me not be tormented by these pains.' We were standing nearby weeping and hoping for the arrival of the blessed Martin. Meanwhile the sacred ceremonies were being performed and the holy gifts were placed on the altar. While the mystery of the body and blood of Christ was as usual covered by a cloth, the knots on Bonulf’s tendons were softened, the skin of the man’s lame knee was torn, a trickle of blood flowed out, and he stretched out a healthy foot.'

Gregory and the congregation gave thanks for Martin's presence.

Text: Krusch 1969, 167-168. Translation: Van Dam 1993, 240-24, lightly modified (de Nie 2015, 583-587).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Tours Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Tours

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people Demons


Gregory, of a prominent Clermont family with extensive ecclesiastical connections, was bishop of Tours from 573 until his death (probably in 594). He was the most prolific hagiographer of all Late Antiquity. He wrote four books on the miracles of Martin of Tours, one on those of Julian of Brioude, and two on the miracles of other saints (the Glory of the Martyrs and Glory of the Confessors), as well as a collection of twenty short Lives of sixth-century Gallic saints (the Life of the Fathers). He also included a mass of material on saints in his long and detailed Histories, and produced two independent short works: a Latin version of the Acts of Andrew and a Latin translation of the story of The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. Gregory's Miracles of Martin (full title Libri de virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi, 'Books of the Miracles of Saint Martin the Bishop'), consists of four books of miracles, 207 chapters in all, effected by Martin, primarily at his grave and shrine in Tours. Most of them occurred at the time of the saint's festivals, on 4 July and 11 November. Gregory tried to record the miracles in chronological order, so historians have been able to calculate quite precisely the dates of the events and miracles mentioned in the work. This fairly precise chronology has enabled scholars to determine the dates of completion of each book. There have been three main dating schemes proposed for the composition of the four books. The oldest was suggested by Monod in 1872, another by Krusch in 1885, and then one by Van Dam in 1993 (for fuller discussion, see Shaw 2015, 103-105). Their datings of the individual books do not vary substantially, and in our entries we have given only those of Van Dam. Shaw 2015 convincingly demolishes an earlier theory, that Gregory wrote the Miracles in two distinct stages: a first stage that was written during a particular period, and a second stage in the early 590s, in which Gregory revised the whole work. Book 1, with 40 chapters, was written between 573 and 576. In the prologue, Gregory mentions that he started writing after he became bishop of Tours in August 573. Book 1 must have been completed by 576, since Venantius Fortunatus in a letter to Gregory of that year referred to it (Epistula ad Gregorium 2, prefatory letter to Fortunatus' Life of Martin, MGH Auct. ant. 4.1, p. 293). Book 2 consists of 60 chapters. It must have been finished before November 581, because the last miracles it mentions occurred in November 580, while the first ones recorded in Book 3 happened in November 581. Using the same methodology, the completion of Book 3, which also covers 60 chapters, can be dated between 587 and July 588. Book 4, which consists of 47 chapters, seems never to have been completed, presumably because of Gregory’s death. There are two main arguments in support of the idea that it is unfinished. Firstly, Book 4 has no conclusion and no tidy number of chapters, while each of Books 1 to 3 has these elements. Secondly, the last story recorded in Book 4 is not about Gregory himself, unlike the final stories of Books 2 and 3. Book 1 covers miracles that occurred before Gregory’s episcopate in Tours. The next three books are a running chronicle of Martin’s miracles under Gregory’s episcopate. Some of the miracles are recorded in very summary form, while others are much more elaborately presented: because of this, it has been argued that Gregory first jotted down notes, and only subsequently gave the stories full literary treatment (which in some cases, he was never able to do). The three completed books of the Miracles of Martin were probably released as they were completed, rather that published together. In this sense they are the exception amongst Gregory's writings, since the rest of his work was not finally completed and seems to have been unpublished at the time of his death. For discussion of the work, see: Krusch, B. (ed.), Gregorii episcopi Turonensis miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1,2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969), 2–4. Monod, G., Études critiques sur les sources de l’histoire mérovingienne, 1e partie (Paris, 1872), 42–45. Shaw, R., "Chronology, Composition and Authorial Conception in the Miracula," in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston, 2015), 102–140. Van Dam, R., Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 142–146, 199.


Editions and translations: Krusch, B. (ed.), Gregorii episcopi Turonensis miracula et opera minora (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 1,2; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1969), 134–211. Van Dam, R. (trans.), Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 200–303. de Nie, G. (ed. and trans.), Lives and Miracles: Gregory of Tours (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 39; Cambridge MA, 2015), 421–855. Further reading: Murray, A.C. (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston, 2015). Shanzer, D., "So Many Saints – So Little Time ... the Libri Miraculorum of Gregory of Tours," Journal of Medieval Latin 13 (2003), 19–63.

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